Adoption has become a popular option for people looking to add a pet to their home. As it should be! Animals in rescues and shelters can be ready-made pets.
Your local shelter is a great place to start your search. However, they have limited resources available for matching, so if you wish for a more personalized experience, or are looking for a certain breed/type of pet, you might look into local rescues.
But be ready to research! Not all rescues are equal. Some may have good intentions but are so focused on getting pets into homes that they miss important steps, setting dogs and owners up to fail. And sadly, there are some that take advantage of rescue’s good name, running “retail” rescues that operate like a business. Their focus is placing dogs and collecting fees, without looking after the best interests of animals or humans.
How do you know you are working with a reputable rescue? Look for the following:
You should be encouraged to ask questions about your potential new family member, have a no-pressure “meet and greet”, and be given time to think about the pet’s fit with your family.
And the rescue should be concerned about screening YOU. Most will require a home check and/or references along with an in-depth interview to ensure you are a match for the pet. If a rescue offers to drop a dog at your door a day after receiving your application, or they are hosting “mass adoption” events, that tells you that screening is not their priority.
The animal should be vet checked, spayed/neutered, and vaccinated prior to adoption. If there are any health issues or suspected health issues, the animal should come with vet records and a treatment plan so you know what to expect.
When the adoption is finalized, the rescue should provide you with documentation about the dog's care and health status. All vet records, vaccine certificates, microchip information, etc, should be made available.
There should be a procedure to assess the dog for behavioural issues – friendliness with strangers/animals, separation anxiety, housetraining, etc. Most rescues have a foster period to help the dog decompress from shelter life and allow for their true personality to emerge. When dealing with living creatures there are always some surprises, but the rescue should have steps in place to catch potential problems early and put a training plan in place.
The rescue shouldn’t be out of your life once papers are signed. They should encourage you to contact them with any questions and connect you with resources. If things don’t work out, they should be ready to take a dog back – in fact, they should insist on it. A rescue’s commitment should be for the lifetime of an animal.
Reasonable adoption fees
Some rescues will charge a little more for puppies, or a little less for special-needs dogs, but rescues shouldn’t be raising prices for “desirable” dogs as a profit-making initiative. Among BC rescues, the average adoption fee is $250-600, which (barely) covers basic vetting and care.
Check whether the rescue is a registered non-profit society or a registered Canadian charity. If they are not, it doesn’t mean they are bad – every organization has to start somewhere. Conversely, an organization can follow basic guidelines for BC non-profits and still fall short of good rescue practices. Non-profit or charitable status doesn't guarantee quality but it tells us that the organization has taken a step towards some accountability.
The rescue should also use detailed contracts and be able to talk knowledgeably about their policies and procedures. It's also a good sign if they carry insurance.
It’s worth noting that rescues are almost always run by volunteers, so a little patience and understanding might be necessary. But any reputable rescue should respect your questions and be comfortable speaking to any of the above points.
Ask for references and do research! Talk to vets, trainers, trusted rescues, and people in the pet industry to determine how long the rescue has been around and whether it operates ethically. Don't rely on social media posts or testimonials from a handful of adopters. Even the shadiest rescues will have their fans because they "save animals" or because some adopters lucked out and are happy with the pet they adopted.
It might seem like extra work – but this is a family member and a commitment of 5, 10, or 15 years. Don’t be swayed by an emotional appeal or any pressure to adopt. A good rescue has the well-being of the animal as its first priority, and would not engage in manipulative tactics to secure an adoption.
No Puppy Mills
Information on sourcing reputable rescues and breeders.
Island Dog Rescue - Ethical vs Unethical Rescues
Recognizing a "McRescue".
Animal Welfare Advisory Network of BC
A growing network of BC rescues committed to establishing ethical practices and standards. Their membership list is a great starting point for connecting to local, responsible rescues.